About Laurel Ann Nattress

Editor of Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog, and the short story anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Laurel Ann is a champion of Jane Austen, Austenesque fiction, traditional Regency romance, and period drama.

In Royal Service to the Queen: A Novel of the Queen’s Governess, by Tessa Arlen—A Review

There is something about royalty that is so fascinating to me. What would it be like to be born into a world of privilege and power? How do they live? Who are their friends? What are their secrets?

The British royal family is my favorite, so I jumped at the chance to read In Royal Service to the Queen, by Tessa Arlen. Based on actual events and real people, the story is told from the perspective of governess Marion Crawford. Her charges were the royal Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose Windsor. What she experienced while working for and living with the royal family could give me an insider’s view of the dreams, disappointments, and triumphs of the famous family. Telling this story in a fictionalized account is a tremendous challenge. Daunting, really. I was curious to see if Arlen could pull it off.

Marion Crawford was a young Scottish woman when she accepted a summer job in 1931 as the governess to Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, the two young daughters of the Duke and Duchess of York. This would evolve into a permanent position in the household of the second son of King George V who would later become king when his brother Edward abdicated the throne to marry the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. We briefly touch upon this critical time in the life of Bertie and his wife Elizabeth who never expected to be elevated to the highest position in the land.

The story really begins to heat up after WWII in 1945 when Princess Elizabeth, the heiress-presumptive to the British throne, falls in love with Prince Philip of Greece, a young Royal Navy officer. Crawfie, as Marion is endearingly called by the family, is the only one in Elizabeth’s intimate circle who supports her choice of Philip as a possible husband. Marion herself has also fallen in love with George, a family friend who she wants to marry. This is a complicated situation for both ladies that will take subtle shifting of opinions of the king and queen on Elizabeth’s behalf, and patience and persistence for Marion. Over the next two years Crawfie is placed in a precarious situation—caught between her loyalty to Princess Elizabeth and risking her relationship with her employer Queen Elizabeth who we see really wears the pants in the royal family. After years of loyal service and personal sacrifice, Marion achieves her goals and sees Elizabeth and herself marry the men that they love, but at a great cost. A betrayal by her employer will sever her sixteen-year relationship with her dear princesses. Continue reading

Interview & Giveaway with the Author of The Jane Austen Society, Natalie Jenner

Cover of the paperback edition of The Jane Austen Society (2021)Happy Friday, dear readers! In anticipation of the paperback release of one of my favorite novels of 2020, I have re-read The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner. Like Austen’s novels, I have picked up on new insights into the characters and themes and see the story in a new light. I highly recommend a re-read and envy those who will be discovering the story for the first time.

The paperback edition released this week on July 6th and it is packed with exciting extras:

  • A map illustrating the town of Chawton and the homes of the characters
  • A Reader’s Guide which includes:
  • A Conversation with Natalie Jenner,
  • An Exclusive Author Essay: Prescribing Jane Austen for Difficult Times
  • Recommended Reading
  • Reading Group Questions

For those unfamiliar with the novel here is a description from the publisher and a link to our review.

“Fans of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will adore The Jane Austen Society… A charming and memorable debut, which reminds us of the universal language of literature and the power of books to unite and heal.” ―Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people―a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others―could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

A powerful and moving novel that explores the tragedies and triumphs of life, both large and small, and the universal humanity in us all, Natalie Jenner’s The Jane Austen Society is destined to resonate with readers for years to come.

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A Cover Reveal & Excerpt of Jane and the Year Without a Summer: Being a Jane Austen Mystery (Book 14), by Stephanie Barron

Happy Monday, dear readers! I have great news to share today. Bestselling historical mystery author Stephanie Barron has a new “Being a Jane Austen Mystery” in the queue.

Jane and the Year Without a Summer arrives on February 8, 2022, marking the fourteenth novel in the popular series. Set in Regency England, the series is based on actual events and people in Austen’s life and times. Inspired by the author’s life-long admiration of Austen and her writing, Barron’s skill at channeling her voice and the historical detail is nonpareil. Here is a description of the book, the big cover reveal, and an exclusive excerpt from the novel.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

May 1816: Jane Austen is feeling unwell, with an uneasy stomach, constant fatigue, rashes, fevers and aches. She attributes her poor condition to the stress of family burdens, which even the drafting of her latest manuscript—about a baronet’s daughter nursing a broken heart for a daring naval captain—cannot alleviate. Her apothecary recommends a trial of the curative waters at Cheltenham Spa, in Gloucestershire. Jane decides to use some of the profits earned from her last novel, Emma, and treat herself to a period of rest and reflection at the spa, in the company of her sister, Cassandra.

Cheltenham Spa hardly turns out to be the relaxing sojourn Jane and Cassandra envisaged, however. It is immediately obvious that other boarders at the guest house where the Misses Austen are staying have come to Cheltenham with stresses of their own—some of them deadly. But perhaps with Jane’s interference a terrible crime might be prevented. Set during the Year without a Summer, when the eruption of Mount Tambora in the South Pacific caused a volcanic winter that shrouded the entire planet for sixteen months, this fourteenth installment in Stephanie Barron’s critically acclaimed series brings a forgotten moment of Regency history to life.

COVER REVEAL Continue reading

A Preview & Giveaway of From Highbury with Love, by Corrie Garrett

From Highbury with Love by Corrie Garrett 2021Happy Friday dear readers. The seasons are changing here. I hope to get into the garden this weekend. How about you?

Today we are delighted to preview a forthcoming novel by Corrie Garrett, From Highbury with Love. Technically it is crossover fiction, combining the characters from two of Jane Austen’s novels: Emma and Pride and Prejudice.

Talking about crossovers, this is an emerging subgenre in Austenesque fiction that is trending. While Sybil G. Brinton’s 1913 Old Friends and New Fancies was the first to incorporate this technique of blending multiple storyline characters into a new narrative, more recently Joana Starnes’ The Subsequent Proposal: The Tale of Pride and Prejudice & Persuasion (2013), and Mr. Darcy’s Persuasion, by Cass Grafton and Ada Bright (2021) have expanded the practice to much acclaim. I suspect that we shall see many more authors embracing this device in the future.

Since there are far fewer Emma sequels than Pride and Prejudice, (by the thousands, if you want a wild guess) the choice of combining the residents of Highbury with Pemberley is refreshing. Author Corrie Garrett has kindly offered us an exclusive excerpt from her new novel to give a peek inside the story and a generous giveaway chance for three digital copies of the book that releases next month. Enjoy!

Best, LA

BOOK DESCRIPTION

A retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Emma, bringing some of your favorite couples together in unexpected ways!

When Lizzy Bennet spends a winter visit in Highbury with her father’s cousins, Miss Jane Fairfax and Mrs. Bates, she becomes friends with the young lady of Hartfield, Emma Woodhouse. At least, everyone assumes they will be friends, but soon Lizzy is as invested in Harriet Smith’s sweet romance as Emma is opposed to it, and neither of these spirited heroines will back down easily!

And when Darcy visits his friend George Knightley, it’s a complete carousel of mistaken affections and awkward confrontations.

Some in the neighborhood are convinced Mr. Darcy remains in town for Emma. Some think Lizzy would be an excellent young bride for Mr. Knightley. Meanwhile, Lizzy accidentally discovers love letters to Jane Fairfax, Lady Catherine hears rumors of Darcy’s courtship of Emma, and Mr. Knightley rescues the wrong girl at the ball.

Between Christmas parties, outdoor frescoes, and fireside chats, the Highbury community is in for all the drama their village can hold.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT

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A Preview & Giveaway of Winning the Gentleman: Hearts on the Heath (Book 2), by Kristi Ann Hunter

Winning the Gentleman by Kristi Ann HunterHappy Spring dear readers! My daffodils are budding, and hope is in the air.

On that uplifting note, I am happy to introduce you to a new Regency romance novel whose heroine is not your typical shrinking Miss pushed into a London Season. Winning the Gentleman is a forthcoming release by the bestselling author Kristi Ann Hunter—and it will surprise and delight you.

I adore a feisty heroine who bucks the system. I have fond memories of Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice with her “decided opinions” tramping across the countryside, and Sophy Stanton-Lacy in Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy, the most beloved outgoing, independent, and unconventional heroine of the genre taking action and raising eyebrows. Hunter’s female protagonist, Sophia Fitzroy, rivals her predecessors. She is a horse trainer in a traveling circus with her own ideas of what a women’s life should be when she meets Aaron Whitworth, a gentleman in need of a racehorse jockey.

This unexpected concept for a historical romance novel is not only surprising but also refreshing. The setting in the Regency-era English countryside is enchanting, and their slow-burn romance captivating.

Kristi’s publisher has kindly shared an exclusive excerpt with our readers and offered a generous giveaway chance for a print copy of the book. Please see the details at the end of this post and leave a comment to enter.

Wishing you all happy reading.

Best, LA

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Aaron Whitworth hasn’t had control over most aspects of his life, but he’s always taken pride in being an honorable businessman and better-than-average horseman. When both of those claims are threatened, he makes the desperate decision to hire the horse trainer of a traveling circus as a temporary jockey for his racehorses.

Sophia Fitzroy knows that most horsemen don’t take her seriously because she’s a woman, but she can’t pass up the opportunity to get away from the tumultuous world of travel and performing. As she fights for the right to do the work she was hired for, she learns the fight for Aaron’s guarded heart might be an even more worthwhile challenge.

As secrets come to light and past vulnerabilities are confronted, will Aaron and Sophia sacrifice their former dreams and forge a new one together–against all odds?

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT

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A Preview & Giveaway of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, by Jasmine A. Stirling, illustrated by Vesper Stamper

Happy Friday dear readers. I am excited to share a special children’s book with you today inspired by the early life of our favorite author. A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice was written by Jasmine A. Stirling and beautifully illustrated by Vesper Stamper. This picture book introduces readers to Austen’s “origin story.” It is sure to charm, delight, inspire, and entertain young and old alike.

We have an in-depth blog for you today so grab a cup of tea and settle in. Firstly, there is a slide show of the charming illustrations, then an enlightening guest blog from the author on “Five facts about Jane Austen that will intrigue your kids,” and finally an amazing chance to win several prizes. The giveaway details are at the end of the post.

A Most Clever Girl releases on March 30, 2021, so get your pre-orders in. I already have my gift list completed for birthdays and holiday presents.

Have a great weekend.

Best, Laurel Ann

BOOK DESCRIPTION 

For fans of I Dissent and She Persisted—and Jane Austen fans of all ages—a picture book biography about the beloved and enduring writer and how she found her unique voice.

Witty and mischievous Jane Austen grew up in a house overflowing with words. As a young girl, she delighted in making her family laugh with tales that poked fun at the popular novels of her time, stories that featured fragile ladies, and ridiculous plots. Before long, Jane was writing her own stories-uproariously funny ones, using all the details of her life in a country village as inspiration.

In times of joy, Jane’s words burst from her pen. But after facing sorrow and loss, she wondered if she’d ever write again. Jane realized her writing would not be truly her own until she found her unique voice. She didn’t know it then, but that voice would go on to capture readers’ hearts and minds for generations to come.

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 GUEST BLOG 

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